I’d posted a tiny video on my instagram today – it was of my bullet journal, and I had asked if anyone would be interested in knowing how to start a bullet journal in a quick and simple manner. I got so many yes-es! So without further ado, here’s a quick guide on how to get started with bullet journaling.
But first – What’s a Bullet Journal?
A bullet journal is a system of logging tasks that was created by New York City designer Ryder Caroll. It’s pretty straightforward – you write down a title/topic, like the day’s to-do list or a say, a list of things to buy/do for a party you’re planning on top of the page, and list the associated tasks down using bullet marks and short sentences. Once you’ve completed a task, you cross out the bullet to indicate its completion. The official Bullet Journal website has a sort of key (dot for tasks, an ‘o’ for events, hyphens for notes, and so on), but I personally just follow the dot system, and cross the dot out when my task is done.
How is this different from using any other planner?
It’s different because it’s entirely customizable. While I do follow certain methods that have been listed by Ryder Caroll (I use the monthly layout), I don’t use all of them. There’s no pressure to follow the rigid formats that planners have, so you write your tasks down exactly the way you want to write them, and in the order that you want to write them.
Okay, now what do I need to get started?
All you need is a notebook and a pen. Nothing fancy, any plain ruled or unruled notebook will do. I use a Moleskine but any notebook will do. It can be ruled, unruled, dotted, whatever you like. Here’s the most important rule about starting a bullet journal – IGNORE PINTEREST. You’ll see photos of beautifully handwritten, illustrated, coloured journals which will take a minimum of 3 years just to set up. All you really need are two layouts – a monthly (or weekly) layout, and a daily task list. I use a monthly task list and a daily task list. Here’s what I do – at the start of every month, I take a fresh double page, and make a little calendar on one side of the page. On the other side of the page, I list down tasks for that month.
Once this is done, I start my daily task list, which is basically the date on top and the list of tasks for the day written down. When I’m done with a task I either cross out the bullet mark, or put a tick next to it. If I can’t get something in my list done, it goes over to the task list for the next day, or whichever date I think it’ll work best. Sometimes, when I don’t see an end in sight, I list it in the monthly task list so that I don’t miss it.
You may have noticed that I’ve stayed away from the doodling & the colouring. I recommend you stay away from them too, at least until you’ve a solid routine in place. The idea is to have a notebook that will help you get stuff done quickly.
All of this sounds easy, but will I stick to it?
Isn’t that the hardest part! Bullet journals are a habit. Having said that, I promise it’s an easy one. Here are some ways you can stick to it –
- Make sure your journal is a notebook that fits into your work bag. You’ll need to be carrying this everyday. Pretty notebooks are a bonus.
- It is recommended that you write down the day’s task the night before, but who has the time for that? I do, however, take my journal out first thing when I reach work. I write down my tasks, and use that to plan my day. It only takes an extra five, ten minutes, but I get way more work done.
- If the monthly spread looks complicated, ditch it. Start with just writing down the date, and the tasks for the day. Once you get comfortable with the idea, you can start on monthly and weekly layouts (as per your convenience)
- Write down tasks in the order of unpleasantness. TRUST ME ON THIS.Get rid of the annoying stuff first and the rest of your day will be so much better.
- Remember that it’s okay if you miss a day, or don’t fill up stuff for the weekends. That’s one of the great things about the bullet journal. There’s no empty space staring at you disapprovingly.
- Don’t leave spaces between days. If you have only five tasks for a day and it covers half a page, leave a couple of lines and write down the next day’s date and tasks. Not wasting space makes your journal look good, and also encourages you to keep at it.
That’s pretty much it, actually. Given that November has only now begun, I do hope you try it for this month and see how it goes. Also, I did write about how to be productive in the October 2016 issue of Elle, so please do check that out as well. I’ve even listed some apps that help me focus and get more done during my day. I consider myself very, very lucky to be as busy as I am these days, and it’s thanks to these hacks that I’m able to get through! I have a Pinterest board where I pin inspiration for bullet journals, so you can follow me there, too! Keep in mind that these are just ideas – if you have something that works for you, stick to that. Colouring is pretty, but productivity is better.